10 Holiday Home Safety Tips

December is the time of year for decorations, houseguests, and lots of parties. But along with fun and festivities, it can also bring about potential hazards. Follow these tips for a safe holiday season:

Keep trees fresh.

Choose a fresh Christmas tree, and secure it in a sturdy stand. Keep the tree away from radiators and doors, and water it daily. Be sure artificial trees are labeled as fire-retardant.

Take care with candles.

Be careful when burning candles, and be sure to keep them away from decorations or other combustible materials. Don't leave children unattended in a room with lit candles, and always keep candles, matches, and lighters out of their reach. Never use lit candles as tree decorations.

Keep an eye on poinsettias.

Poinsettia plants are known to be poisonous to humans and animals, so keep them out of reach, or avoid having them in your house if you have pets or young children.

Watch the stove.

Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the United States. When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range.

Provide alcohol-free beverages.

When hosting an event at home, make sure to have non-alcoholic beverages available for designated drivers. If a guest becomes too inebriated to drive, call a taxi, or drive the person home.

Don't tempt thieves.

Large displays of holiday gifts should not be visible through doors or windows. If the front door has a window, cover it with tinfoil or wrapping paper.

Keep pets away from wrapped food gifts.

Chocolate, onions, raisins, and alcohol can be fatal to dogs, so don't put these items under the Christmas tree until it's time to open gifts.

Supervise holiday lighting.

Turn off all lights before going to bed or leaving the house, as lights can short out and start a fire. Inspect new and previously used light strings, and replace them if they're damaged or worn. What's more, a recent analysis of four common brands of holiday lights shows levels of lead that may be hazardous to children. As a precaution, lights should be kept out of the reach of children—and should only be hung by adults wearing protective gloves.

Monitor children's gifts.

Before allowing kids to play with toys they receive as gifts, read the instructions carefully. Children under the age of 3 can choke on small parts from toys or games, and pull toys with strings longer than 12 inches can be a strangulation hazard for babies.

Never put wrapping paper in the fireplace.

Gift wrap can emit dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup in the home, possibly causing an explosion.